Last year, 38 people died and more than 7,200 crashes occurred in highway work zones across North Carolina.

So far this year there has been at least one crash at the intersection of U.S. 117 South and Country Club Road where crews with S.T. Wooten are constructing an interchange.

There have been 125 such crashes in Wayne County since 2012 including six in 2017.

There were no fatalities in work zone crashes in the county in 2017.

However, that was not the case in 2015 when Grey Bailey, 35, a state Department of Transportation employee, died March 23 after being struck by a car while working along U.S. 70 West near Capps Bridge Road.

It was one of 32 work zone crashes that year in the county.

To promote highway safety, Gov. Roy Cooper has proclaimed April as Work Zone Safety Awareness Month and April 9-13 as Work Zone Safety Week.

The safety campaign complements the NC Vision Zero initiative, which aims to reduce crashes, eliminate roadway deaths and encourage safer driving behavior.

Bailey lived at Kenly and worked out of the state Department of Transportation office in Johnston County.

His twin daughters were just 18 months old when he died.

In December 2016 a section of U.S. 70 from Ebenezer Church Road to the U.S. 70 Goldsboro Bypass bridge over the Little River was dedicated in memory of Bailey.

At that dedication ceremony Bailey's widow, Millie, said, "This road dedication has been so important to my family and I. It is one small step in providing a lasting memory of an amazing person that Grey Bailey was. From now on when we travel this road that holds such terrible memories for us we can be happy knowing that this dedication raises awareness to the importance of work zone safety and how important it is for those men and women to make it home safely to their families each day.

"I pray that you never have to see another widow cry before you over the loss of her husband. I hope that as hundreds of people travel that road each day they will take note of Grey's sacrifice and reflect on how valuable life really is."

Speeding is the No. 1 contributing factor in work zone crashes, and another common cause is not paying attention behind the wheel, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation.

The speed limit is often lowered because of potentially hazardous conditions in a construction area.

It takes just 49 seconds longer to travel through a 2-mile work zone at 45 mph than at 65 mph hour.

Rear-end collisions are the most frequent type crash in work areas.

The DOT, the N.C. Governor's Highway Safety Program and the state Highway Patrol are urging motorists to slow down and not drive distractedly while traveling through a construction or maintenance zone, whether or not workers are present in the highway.

At a work site along Interstate 95 in Johnston County, the three state agencies this past Friday morning kicked off their annual work zone safety campaign to coincide with the springtime increase of transportation projects around the state.

Officials remind drivers to obey the posted speed limits, avoid distractions and watch for workers in work zones.

"Speed kills in a work zone, and so does not paying attention," said Steve Kite, the state work zone engineer for the DOT. "Slow down. The life you are saving might be your own."

The DOT also wants to keep its workers and contract crews safe.

However, 10 to 15 percent of fatalities are workers or others, such as pedestrians, who are not inside the vehicle that crashed.

"This is not just another road with orange barrels on it," said Ryan Beamer, a DOT resident engineer based in Johnston County. "This is where men and women are working, and we want them to be able to see their loved ones at the end of the day."

Distracted driving is one of the most dangerous hazards on the highways, but sadly, many people don't take it seriously, said Debroah Leonard, Ph.D., the safety engineer for DOT's Highway Division 4, which includes Johnston and Wayne counties.

More information, including driving safety tips, can be found at www.ncdot.gov/programs/workzonesafety.